TO PROMOTE SUSTAINABLE LIVING PRACTICES IN THE MID MAINE REGION

Opinion Piece by: Elery Keene

November 29, 2015

There are really only two sources of energy for the world. The most obvious is the sun, energy

that comes to us through space and through the air. The other comes from deep below the

ground, energy that was in the earth when it was formed. The energy that we get from burning

wood comes from the sun, which was the source of energy that made the trees grow. Wind is

produced by uneven heating of air by the sun. Cold air is heavier than warm air. The fossil fuels:

petroleum, coal, and natural gas were placed underground millions of years ago, made from

remnants of life that has been stored there including vegetable (plants and trees) or animal life

such as dinosaurs and other creatures that died and have been stored there. This fossil energy

came almost entirely from the sun.

We do get some energy, such as nuclear energy, from basic elements such as uranium and

plutonium. In fact, all of the tiny molecules that are listed in the periodic table of the elements

are really made of energy. This energy was either in the earth when it was formed or received

from the sun since that time.

We, humans, and all other forms of life, need energy to exist. We get our basic energy by eating

food that exists because of the sun – whether it is fruit and vegetables or animals. We also take in

oxygen from the air. We also use energy for other purposes that help us enjoy our lives.

Over the centuries, we have used a lot of wood. Conveniently, English people found that they

could burn coal when they did because they had used up almost all of the trees that existed on

their island. People began to use fossil fuel.

Now we are using up coal, petroleum, and gas that has been stored in the ground. If we

continue, someday it will be all gone. We learned some time ago that using this source of energy

generates carbon dioxide, which is warming the air so much that it that will make it more

difficult for many kinds of life to continue to exist, including humans. This must stop.

Yet we do need energy. Where will it come from? The easy answer is to get the energy we need

from the sun. We can do this without contributing to the problem of climate change. We can

collect the sun’s energy by heating conductive substances, and now, by using solar panels to

change the sun’s energy into electricity. Electricity can be used to propel automobiles, trucks,

subways, and railroad locomotives. These methods do not cause climate change problems and

are renewable, unlike fossil fuel.

Of course the sun does not shine all the time. But clean energy can also be produced by

windmills, rivers and tidal water. Hydroelectric dams can store water when the sun is shining

and generate electricity when the sun is not shining.

So why do we continue to develop new sources of fossil fuel when better ways to get energy are

available?

I suppose it is because a lot of money has been invested in obtaining fossil fuel energy even

though investors have known about the climate change problems since before 1980.

But if we don’t stop doing this, the world and its people are in a lot of trouble. The oceans are

rising rapidly. The ocean water is becoming warmer and more acidic, which is destroying its

ability to produce food. Many of the places where we have grown food on land for centuries are

becoming too dry to be able to do this. One of the places where this is happening is California,

which now has less rainfall and does not have access to enough river water and underground

water to irrigate the farmland. We can’t use salty and acidic ocean water to irrigate farmland.

Hopefully the international conference in Paris relating to Climate change this December will

change this, before it is too late. Hopefully all governments will take action to require transition

from fossil fuel energy to other sources and do so as quickly as possible, whether privately

owned fossil fuel corporations want to or not.

Last modified: March 7, 2017

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